Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Joey

My entire life never once did I imagine I’d measure the success or failure of a day based on the size and consistency of cat poo, but here I am, doing just that. I’m at the tail-end of a years-long relationship with a wonderful little dude who has been just a big lug of love and affection longer than I care to remember. And while I can say with moderate certainty that those who are non-pet owned may be able to empathize, it is those with a furry member of the family (or two, or four) who can truly sympathize.

I’ve had a few furry family members over the years, and have a bunch now, but none have been around as long as my Joseph William, AKA Guiseppe Guillermo, who just celebrated his 16th Christmas. Well, not really – Joey’s never “celebrated” a holiday in his life; he’s a cat, for crying out loud! But you get my point: I don’t really remember not having Joey around. He’s lived with me in RI, NJ, RI again, and now MO. Aside from my human family, he’s been the biggest constant in my life.

And he’s always enjoyed robust health, until recently. I got Ben and Joey in the Spring of 1992, when they were just 8 weeks old (they were litter mates), and they were solid, but small. Well, that changed quickly. By year end they were huge. Not just big, but giant. These bruisers grew into the biggest cats I’d ever seen … I don’t mean fat, I’ve seen plenty of fat cats, but the two of them weighed in over 20lbs each, without an ounce of extra fat on them, and each was polydactyl on both front paws.

They were just behemoths with these giant mitts, galloping through the house at breakneck speed, crashing into (formerly) stationary objects with complete abandon. They were so big they couldn’t corner well at high speeds, so used walls and furniture (and sometimes people) as bumpers. My downstairs neighbors everywhere we lived used to comment on it. Just jumping off the bed caused a thud that reverberated. I’m lucky they had such great personalities, far more like dogs than cats, because friends and neighbors loved them.

They’d run to answer the door, and vocalize until they’d received the requisite pampering before scampering off to play. When I’d have game nights there was no hiding under the bed for these boys … they were right there in the thick of things, demanding attention and making off with the game pieces of the unwary. They were tremendous fun, and whenever I brought a new cat home, as I sometimes did, there was no howling crazy free-for-all establishing territories … they just absorbed the newbie and that was it.

But Benny passed almost 6 years ago of thyroid cancer, and it broke my heart. He melted down to 11lbs in less than three months, and just could not keep the weight on, and I’m afraid the same is now happening to Joe. While he still looks fairly large, all it takes is a petting session to see the truth: I feel every ridge of his spine, and his shoulder and hip bones. His legs are sticks covered in fur, and when I rub his forehead and between his eyes (his favorite pastime) my fingers read his skull like it’s delivering a message in Braille. And when I pick him up, I no longer have to set myself to balance his weight … he feels light as a feather.

At first I was very upset. I thought, “I can’t do this again.” I was ready to stamp my feet in a temper tantrum reminiscent of my niece at the mall (that was a nightmare!). But I’ve since calmed down. Joey’s lived a great life, and been a terrific blessing to me, and I owe him the absolute best twilight I can give him. So I’ve instituted some changes that Joey greatly enjoys: 1) he now gets first dibs on canned food twice daily (he’s got precious few teeth left, and generally falls asleep in the midst of happily gumming dry food); 2) he has three bowls of water in various locations that get changed out twice daily (he’s always been a lazy drinker and still lies down next to the bowl to lap from a reclining position); and 3) he determines who has access to me.

This last change Joey’s enjoying a great deal: if the labs (Boogie and Kaia) are too rambunctious, he starts up a rumbling snarl and looks at me; that’s my cue, and out go the girls. Same with Maddie, our other resident eldercat (she’s thirteen). I’m on constant watch to ensure Joey gets enough to eat and drink, and can determine that based on … yeah, you guessed it … the size and consistency of his poo. On a big poo day, I am happy as a clam: my baby’s eating.

So, this is me, judging the success or failure of a day based on the size and consistency of cat poo. All I have to say is hooray for big, solid, cat poo!!

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